Ma Petite Obsession

Tonight, I sat in a room filled with people speaking a language other than English. And I loved it.

As you may have noticed from the little bits of French I toss in here and there, I like the language. Well, actually, that’s not quite accurate: I LOVE languages. All of ‘em. Even phlegmy-sounding gargle languages like Arabic and German (no offense meant - that just what it sounds like to my uncultured, unattuned ears).

I’ve always lamented the fact that I don’t speak multiple tongues. Even though my background is Chinese, my parents pulled the typical first generation tomfoolery and refused to teach us the language - something about ensuring that we spoke “pure English” or some nonsense like that.

Oh, I tried going to Chinese school, but it was too little, too late. As for French, being part of a purportedly “bilingual nation”, we did have French classes in school. The problem is, I went to some of the crappiest public schools ever. The French teacher didn’t even speak French - but she was a toothsome, young bathing suit model - so even though enrollment in her class was incredibly high, we learned exactly rien. Well, we learned how to stare, ogle, induldge in flights of pubescent sexual fantasy, and say, “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?”… but that’s another story.

I’m constantly amazed by people who can speak multiple languages. And I’m surrounded by them. Why, Renée herself speaks three or four languages fluently (or close to), and another two or three that she can futz around in. My friend Tonia speaks four fluently, and even her wonder-daughter Maya (who’s seven and can be currently found dancing up a storm in Toronto’s production of The Nutcracker) can speak three. Plus, I know at least a dozen people who are fully fluent in English and French.

( Of course, to those born in Europe this fascination (and incredulity) with folks that speak more than one language probably seems pretty silly. That’s what happens when you’re raised in a mono-linguistic society. )

At home, I’m surrounded by partially perused self-teach kits for all sorts of languages: French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Chinese… you name it, somewhere here lies the reference material. I believe there’s four or five different versions of The Little Prince alone, plus musty tomes in Dutch, Kanji, Japanese… the list goes on, and on, and on.

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with language. Perhaps it’s just tied into my longstanding fear of being, well, misunderstood. Perhaps it’s some deepset childhood disappointment at not really fitting into the Chinese or Caucasian / Anglo worlds; I’m merely applying with different clubs to see who’ll take me. Or, perhaps it’s just that part of my fear of being stagnant and immobile responding to the exoticness and newness of it all. However you slice it, J’aime beaucoup les langues..

Do you speak any other languages besides English? Post in the comments and earn my undying jealously…

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